Pet Care Blog

How To Prevent Bloat In Dogs

Dr. Lila Batiari, DVM
Dr. Lila Batiari
Small Animal Relief Veterinarian
abc

Bloat is one of the most common health issues in dogs. Any breed of dog is susceptible to bloat – formally known as gastric dilation-volvulus or GDV – but larger dogs with deep chests are the most frequently affected. The condition is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated within an hour or two.

In this post, we’re explaining what dog bloat is, why it occurs, and how to treat it. We’ll also cover how to prevent bloat in dogs, as well as frequently asked questions regarding the condition.

Table of Contents:

What does bloat mean in dogs?

Bloat is a disorder that occurs when the stomach swells due to gas trapped inside it. A dog's stomach can become so swollen with gas that it actually causes the organ to twist and distend — resulting in a condition known as gastric torsion or gastric-dilation volvulus (GDV).

GDV causes a blockage of the gastrointestinal tract and a lack of blood flow to the intestines. Bloat can cause other serious secondary problems, including difficulty breathing, a tear in the wall of a dog’s stomach, and decreased blood flow to the stomach lining and heart

Is bloat an emergency in dogs?

GDV in dogs is a life-threatening emergency that requires urgent surgery.

When the stomach becomes distended and then rotates, it presses upon the major veins in the abdomen that transport blood to the heart. This impairs their circulation and may result in tissue disintegration.

In most instances, the dog will experience shock within a few hours. Insufficient blood flow in the stomach due to the pressure from the gas can potentially lead to tissue breakdown.

Over time, digestive toxins accumulate in the blood and could exacerbate the dog's shock. The stomach wall will eventually break. In many cases, this can happen within a matter of minutes!

The mortality rate for bloat in dogs is 10-23%.1 If you think your dog has bloat, get them to a vet right away.

Find a Vet Near Me

What causes dog bloat?

Bloating is caused by a buildup of gasses within the stomach, which can accumulate due to a variety of reasons. Veterinarians aren't always sure what causes the condition, but there are certain things that raise a dog's risk for it.

Risk factors for GDV

Size is one of the biggest risk factors, with large dog breeds over 99 pounds having a 20% higher risk of bloat.2

Other contributing factors may include:

  • Consuming too much food or water very quickly
  • Overfeeding your dog
  • Puppies and older dogs are more likely to experience bloat
  • Males are more likely to bloat than female dogs
  • Dogs with nervous temperaments when eating in high-stress situations
  • Dogs whose parent or sibling had bloat are at increased risk of GDV
  • Being thin or underweight
  • Dogs with deep, barrel-shaped chests
  • Exercise immediately after eating
  • Eating from an elevated food bowl
  • Having a history of aggression toward other animals or people
  • Eating dry food with oil or fat listed in the first four ingredients
  • Eating moistened food, especially if citric acid is used as a preservative
  • Feeding only one meal a day

Dog breeds prone to bloat

Large or giant, deep-chested breeds are at higher risk for GDV, such as:

A recent study has shown that the top three dog breeds that are at risk of bloat are Great Dane, Saint Bernard, and Weimaraner.3 However, it should be noted that any dog can bloat, even small breeds like Chihuahuas. 

Which Dog Breeds Need Pet Insurance the Most?

How will I know if my dog bloats?

A dog's swollen stomach and unproductive retching are the two main signs of GDV. The abdomen feels hard to the touch and appears large in size. A bloated dog can have trouble getting up or even collapse, and their breathing might seem strained.

Oftentimes, owners will not notice the symptoms of a bloated dog until the condition has already progressed, which can make treatment difficult. If left untreated, the condition can lead to death.

Symptoms of bloat in dogs

GDV bloating usually starts out slowly and then becomes severe. When it occurs, the most common symptoms of bloat in dogs include:

  • Swollen, hard belly (mostly on the dog’s left side)
  • Drooling
  • Retching but not being able to vomit
  • Pain in the abdomen when touched
  • Panting, pacing, restlessness, and other signs of distress
  • Stretching with their front half down and rear end up
  • Pale gums
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Collapse

Signs of bloat in dogs typically appear within two to three hours after a substantial meal. However, the condition is not always connected to eating.

How vets diagnose bloat in dogs

A dog's troubled demeanor and appearance can lead a veterinarian to suspect bloat and/or GDV, but the doctor will usually also conduct the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Blood tests to get a picture of the animal’s overall health.
  • Abdominal X-rays to confirm the diagnosis and assess the bloat's severity, as imaging can show whether the dog has simple bloat (in which case the stomach appears excessively swollen, round, and typically filled with food or gas) or whether the condition has advanced to GDV (exceedingly distended and has what appears to be a bubble on top of the bloated stomach).

How to treat bloat in dogs

Dog bloat cannot be treated at home; the condition requires intensive care from a licensed and trained veterinary team in a pet emergency room. Depending on the severity of the case, the ER vet will likely recommend the following:

  • Hospitalization. Dogs with simple bloat are usually hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids and medicine. They are also frequently walked in order to help pass food and gas through the body more quickly and stimulate the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Stabilization. It will be necessary to administer IV fluids to reverse the shock and lower the heart rate to avoid cardiac failure. In many cases, this will necessitate the use of drugs to treat the decreased blood flow to the heart, antibiotics to prevent secondary infection, and pain medication for dogs.
  • Emptying stomach contents. To prevent the stomach's tissue from degenerating and to relieve pressure on the surrounding organs, your veterinarian will first attempt to release the gas that has accumulated there using a tube and stomach pump. In some cases, the gut can be untwisted at this point, although surgery is usually required.
  • Surgery. As soon as the dog is as stable as possible, surgery is performed. The veterinarian may need to untwist the dog's stomach and/or spleen and remove any stomach wall tissue that may have perished from a lack of blood supply, depending on how severe the bloat is.
  • Gastropexy. The vet will also perform a procedure known as gastropexy, which involves attaching the stomach to the intestinal wall. Statistics show that more than 90% of dogs with GDV will likely experience the problem again in the future, so this procedure significantly reduces the likelihood of recurrence.4
  • Recovery. A dog that has undergone GDV surgery is kept in the hospital until the discomfort is under control, blood tests reveal normal enzyme levels, and the dog is eating and drinking normally on their own. The length of stay at the hospital might range from one to two days, to even seven days or more, depending on the dog's health history and the degree of bloat. 

How much does it cost to treat GDV in dogs?

In general, the cost to treat a dog with GDV ranges from $1,500 to $7,500 for hospitalization, surgery, anesthesia, supportive care, and post-operative management.

Sadly, surgery is often necessary to treat GDV, which significantly increases the total cost of treatment. If surgery is not a possibility, economic euthanasia should be taken into account. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, 10% of dogs treated for GDV were euthanized due to cost concerns or very poor prognoses.5

💡 Pro Tip: Pet insurance can prevent owners from having to consider such a heartbreaking decision by covering 60-100% of the vet bill. Use Pawlicy Advisor to find great coverage with personalized plan recommendations based on your pet's breed.

Preventing bloat in dogs

Steps pet parents can take to help prevent dog bloat include:

  • Avoiding the use of a raised bowl unless they need one
  • Minimizing heavy activity immediately before or after a meal
  • Keeping an eye on their water intake
  • Trying feeding multiple small meals rather than two large meals
  • Preventing bloat with a slow feeder
  • Preventing bloat with gastropexy if your dog belongs to the at-risk list of breeds previously mentioned or another large or giant breed 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight because overweight and very underweight dogs are more susceptible to bloat

Key Takeaways

  • Gastric dilation-volvulus is one of the most serious emergencies in dogs. Without treatment, this life-threatening illness can kill a dog in a matter of hours by causing the stomach to twist and distend, cutting off the blood flow and filling it with air.
  • Symptoms include retching, swollen tummy, and signs of distress or pain. If your suspect your dog has bloat, it is vital to get them to the vet right away.
  • Large breeds with deep chests, as well as dogs that are older or overweight, are at the highest risk.
  • Steps dog owners can take to help prevent bloat include using slow feeders, spreading meals across the day, maintaining a healthy weight, gastropexy, etc. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do dogs bloat?

Bloat occurs when food or gas causes a dog's stomach to expand. GDV occurs when the bloated stomach rotates, trapping the gas inside and cutting off the blood flow.

Can all dogs get bloat?

Any dog can get bloat, but large-breed dogs are more at risk. Some breeds are at a greater risk than others, including Great Danes, Irish Setters, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, and Gordon Setters. 

Can puppies get bloat?

Just like grown-up dogs, puppies of any size can also develop bloat. Large and giant puppy breeds are three times more likely to experience bloat than mixed dog breeds. Feeding your pet adequate large-breed puppy food might help prevent bloat in puppies.  

How common is bloat in dogs?

In total, 5.7% of canines will get bloat.6 For dogs weighing 100 pounds or more, this percentage rises to 20%. Great Danes have the highest risk, with a 42% chance of developing bloat. In fact, bloat in dogs is one of the most common pet insurance claims.

What does bloat look like in dogs?

In a dog with bloat, the abdomen appears to be swollen and firm to the touch. Unproductive retching is also a common sign, as well as labored breathing, and collapse.  

Can dog bloat be cured?

Bloat in dogs is usually curable if it is treated right away. Simple bloat, in which the dog's stomach has not twisted, can occasionally be treated without medication but may require fluids or other therapies. If detected in the early stages, other degrees of bloat, including GDV, can also be cured.

How long can a dog live with bloat?

Bloat in dogs can result in fatality in a matter of minutes.

Is preventing bloat in dogs possible?

Not all cases of bloat can be prevented, but by implementing certain techniques such as avoiding the use of raised bowl, minimizing heavy activity immediately before or after a meal, keeping an eye on water intake, feeding multiple small meals rather than two large meals, etc., you may be able to reduce your pet's risk.

What home remedy can I give my dog for gas?

Dogs with gas can benefit from natural digestive aids such as yogurt, ginger, edible peppermint oil, and probiotic powders. However, it is always best to consult your vet before giving your pet any remedies. 

Can you give dogs Gas-X?

The most popular brand of simethicone, Gas-X is usually regarded as safe for canines.

However, before giving your dog any medication, you should always consult your veterinarian. Your vet can make precise dosage recommendations for your dog’s size.

Will a dog with bloat poop?

Typically, a dog suffering from bloat may not poop. If they do, it will be small-volume diarrhea. However, do not assume that just because your dog was able to go to the bathroom he or she is not bloated.

Will a dog with bloat drink water?

Yes, most dogs with bloat will continue to drink water. There are a few reasons why dogs may not drink water when they are bloated, such as feeling nauseous, their stomach is too full and drinking more water would make them feel more uncomfortable, or they’re in so much pain that they don’t want to do anything that may make it worse.

Does pet insurance cover bloat?

Yes. Most pet insurance providers cover dog bloat under their Accident and Illness plans. Accident-Only coverage is cheaper but only covers injuries and accidents. Some of the top pet insurance companies that cover the condition are Embrace, Pets Best, Healthy Paws, Figo, and Spot. Pet insurance for older dogs might be especially beneficial as senior dogs are especially prone to bloat. 

References:

  1. AKC, “Understanding the Mortality Rate of GDV (Bloat) in U.S. Dogs”, Accessed Dec. 29, 2022. 
  2. Fetch by WebMD, “Dog Stomach Swelling: Causes & Treatment” Accessed Dec. 29, 2022.
  3. AKC, “Great Dane Lifespan” Accessed Dec. 29, 2022.
  4. AKC, "Bloat (or GDV) in Dogs: What Is it and How Is it Treated?" Accessed Jan. 3, 2022.
  5. Embrace, “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)”, Accessed Dec. 29, 2022.
  6. DailyPaws, "Is Your Dog at Risk of Bloat? Here's What You Need to Know" Accessed Dec. 29, 2022. 


Do you want to find the best pet insurance?

Let's analyze your pet's breed, age, and location to find the right coverage and the best savings. Ready?

Analyze My Pet

About Pawlicy Advisor

The pet insurance marketplace endorsed by veterinarians, at Pawlicy Advisor we make buying the best pet insurance easier. By comparing personalized coverage and pricing differences we can save you a ton of money, up to 83% in some instances!

Learn More
Pawlicy Advisor helping a pet parent and their dog find a great deal on insurance

Instantly Compare Pet Insurance Plans

Get Quotes

Guides

How Pet Insurance Works

How To Compare Plans

Determine If Pet Insurance Is Worth It

Determine If Wellness Plans Are Worth It

Vet Visit Costs

New Puppy Checklist

Comparison Charts

ASPCA vs. Pets Best

Pets Best vs. Embrace

Embrace vs. MetLife

MetLife vs. Figo

More Comparison Charts

Find Your State

New Jersey

California

Florida

Oregon

Texas

New York

Colorado

Pennsylvania

More States

Dog Insurance

German Shepherd

Rottweiler

Akita

Boxer

English Bulldog

French Bulldog

Great Dane

Pug

Corgi

Chihuahua

Poodle

More Breeds

Dr. Lila Batiari, DVM

Dr. Lila Batiari
Small Animal Relief Veterinarian

Lila Batiari, DVM is a relief veterinarian located in San Diego, California. She has a special interest in nutrition, pain management, and surgery! Dr. Batiari enjoys working with Pawlicy Advisor to help others avoid everyday situations that some of her clientele experience. She realizes that expensive vet bills for treatment costs could be much easier for patients with pet insurance.

More on Dog Health Conditions

Dog in distress with head being held
8 minute read

Addison's Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and Costs

American Foxhound dog tilting head
6 minute read

Ataxia in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Brown pointer dog resting head on the ground
7 minute read

Blastomycosis in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

English bulldog with cherry eye
7 minute read

Cherry Eye in Dogs

Dog on newspaper looking ashamed
7 minute read

Colitis in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Dog with conjunctivitis eye problem
6 minute read

Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye) in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

dog with constipation
8 minute read

Constipation in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

increased pot belly of a dog with cushing disease
6 minute read

Cushing Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, and How to Save on Costs

Black Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog sits on toilet
12 minute read

Diarrhea in Dogs: Causes, Treatments, Prevention

Dog lying on bed wrapped in blankets
6 minute read

Distemper in Dogs: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Back to Blog
A family with pets that are insured by Pawlicy Advisor
Pawlicy Advisor is the leading independent marketplace for finding the best coverage for your pet at the lowest rate.
Join 2,438,795+ insured dogs and cats across the US.
Get a Quote
Our pet insurance partners
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Logo
Pets Best Pet Insurance Logo
Embrace Pet Insurance Logo
MetLife Pet Insurance Logo
Figo Pet Insurance Logo
Prudent Pet Insurance Logo